With eleven albums complete, bassist Tobin Esperance details how the band continues push boundaries, embrace the weird and take creative risks to ensure the ultimate reward.
Words by Yvonne Villasenor
Papa Roach have been rocking relentlessly for nearly 30 years, creating 10 albums that have led to them becoming a two-time GRAMMY-nominated, platinum-selling band, forever making their mark on alternative hard rock music.
Just last year, the band celebrated the 20th anniversary of their iconic triple-platinum album, Infest. (You know the one.) As they continue to achieve phenomenal success and tally professional accolades decades into the game, they prove time and time again their commitment to their growth — both in their art and in their personal lives.
And now they’re back with yet another banger. The band’s eleventh full-length release, Ego Trip, is just as fierce of an album as those of when the Vacaville outfit first arrived on the scene — although, arguably bolder and wiser. Ego Trip also marks an especially significant chapter in the band’s career. The album was released via the band’s own New Noize Records in partnership with ADA Worldwide – allowing Papa Roach the ability to take control of the wheel.
Ego Trip features 14 tracks packed with energy and stylistic spontaneity, as seen in striking singles including the instant-classic “Kill the Noise,” the genre-bending feel-good-jam “Swerve,” the anthemic “Dying to Believe,” the energized “Cut the Line” and the emotive “Stand Up.” Ego Trip is intensely introspective, heartfelt and empowering.
In search of capturing the same kind of fearlessness and stylistic lightning in a bottle that propelled Infest to become an instant classic, the band sought out to reconnect with those earliest elements (and banger riffs). But above all, they wanted things to be “odd,” frontman Jacoby Shaddix explained.
Ego Trip captures the band’s idle hands and idle minds amid what felt like a mercilessly suffocating, hopeless time for the world. Bassist Tobin Esperance explains how he and the band were feeling at the time and how an outpouring of creativity unintentionally resulted in a full-length album.
“From the last record, we just wanted to get in, just do a song and just be creative. That was going to be our whole MO,” Esperance says. “We would go into the studio whenever we felt like it, and if we came out with a song that we were really passionate about, then we would just release that song. You know what I mean? Which a lot of people are doing nowadays. But that just snowballed into a tour getting cut short then lockdown.”
After going “100 miles an hour” to being at home for months on end left the band feeling antsy. However, it gave them time to focus on what mattered most: their health, quality time with their families and an outlet for their creativity.
“Everyone’s going a little stir crazy during lockdown and just feeling that the need to capture that sense of urgency that was floating around,” Esperance says. “The only way to do that was to sneak into the studio and start making songs. And we did that.”
Hesitant to travel in the midst of a pandemic, the band decided to set up camp and do what they do best — their own damn thing.
“We just said, ‘Fuck it, let’s go rent a big compound somewhere where nobody knows where we are, and we’ll just lock ourselves in a house … isolated away from people where you just don’t know anybody.’ And that’s what we did,” Esperance says. “We moved an entire studio worth of gear, had our producers — which are also our good friends — and the five of us just locked in a house … We just got real weird for a month and made music at the same time.”
The band settled in a mansion in Temecula, Calif. with two songs done prior to their stay — “Kill the Noise” and “Liar.” After getting weird and working day and night for a month, the band came out with a whole album, collaborating with producers WZRD BLD (A Day To Remember, Bullet For My Valentine, Lil Wayne), Andrew Goldstein (All Time Low, Blackbear, Linkin Park, Maroon 5) and Jason Evigan (Dua Lipa, G-Eazy, Maroon 5).
“We really didn’t have any expectations … It’s easy for us to write songs because we have such a good team of people that really inspire us,” Esperance says.
Esperance says that with every song they wrote while they were going through this process, he insisted they use it to compile a record.
His thought process, he says, was that the end result would be a timestamp of everything they were thinking and feeling in that moment and what was going on. And although it wasn’t their intention to put out a record, they were enthusiastic about sharing what they had made together.
“We were in our own worlds, really … You have these deep conversations when you’re in a room with all of your brothers. Everyone’s in a different dimension and a lot of those conversations kind of inspired us to name the album Ego Trip because we were talking about your ego and your perception of things,” Esperance says. “Now, a lot of the times that can be your worst enemy, you know what I mean? Sometimes you just got to bring yourself back down to reality. So, that’s kind of where we went with the Ego Trip vibe.”
When asked if the band gets nervous releasing songs that stray from OG fans’ expectations or if it’s something they unapologetically embrace, Esperance cracks a smile.
“We definitely embrace it. Of course, when we are in it, we’re having so much fun because we really get off on doing stuff that maybe might be out of — not our norm — but our core fans’ idea of us. That’s when we have fun. And we’ve been doing this a long time, so it’s like, there’s a lot of sides,” Esperance says. “It’s immediate for a band like us when we get in the studio — we don’t have any rules, there’s no boundaries. There’s no, ‘Everything has to be fucking heavy.’ We’re like, ‘Oh, homie wants to roll through and jam with us? And he plays the fucking sax? Fuck yeah. Let’s just give it a whirl!’”
He continues, “Any time we realize that we say yes to things that — maybe some people might think we’re crazy to say yes to — we just get so excited. We have so much fun. There is a moment when we do release things to the outside world — because we’re aware that there’s a lot of listeners of our band who only want one thing from us — and we know we can always expect that there’s gonna be a little bit of backlash from that. But we wouldn’t be our true, authentic selves if we didn’t just say, ‘Fuck it.’”
The band knows there are fans who want “the old sound,” to which Esperance says he doesn’t even know what that is. And that while old-school fans might not understand or like their new songs initially, Esperance says, “We go and play these live … they totally change their tune when they hear that saxophone or that funky riff.”
This goes to show just how daring the band is when it comes to taking risks and effortlessly creating a fresh sound — a sound that’s entirely theirs — that represents their constant evolving. And it works, just like it always has.
“We never really, truly, belonged to any scene when we started. We just didn’t belong anywhere. We didn’t have to fit into anything,” Esperance says. “We were just our own weird wingnut, spasmodic selves. And we still try to hold true to that attitude. Still.”
With the kind of catalog that taps into a sense of nostalgia in the best of ways, Papa Roach could easily play it safe and ride that wave, but the band continues to press forward, brave new creative terrain and opt to not rest on their laurels — they’ve still got plenty more in store with the intention of going as hard ever. Reflecting on the band’s overall journey, Esperance says he couldn’t be more grateful to be living out his dream job and explains how the longevity of the band is the result of the band’s creative investment in themselves.
“We’re not just a legacy act. People really enjoy our new music. People are buying it, listening to it, streaming it. It’s up there,” Esperance says. “It seems like we keep getting a newer fan base, younger fan base. People are growing up with us all over again, and that’s pretty rad. I’m definitely most grateful for that aspect.”
While some bands might decide it was time to move onto something else after three decades, Papa Roach are still going strong with no signs of slowing down. “I think it’s just in us to just be creative — to want to make music and push ourselves,” Esperance says about the band’s unbounded motivation.
“I’ll tell you what really has inspired us just in the past couple years was definitely lockdown. You know what I mean? And I’ll tell you why. And social media goes hand in hand with that … The business side of us being musicians in a band — Papa Roach is a fucking brand. We want to get creative, and we want to get inspired by new generations of artists. In a way, it’s like Instagram and TikTok and all the socials, it can pull together this community of artists. So, we just started saying yes to all this stuff that we had control over.”
“We couldn’t tour, we couldn’t do any of that. So we’re just like, ‘Hey, let’s collaborate with this person who reached out to us — this TikTok kid who’s doing covers of ‘Last Resort.’ Let’s say yes to this electronic band in Germany that we’ve never heard of who wants to do a track with us. Let’s fucking do it — because what else can we do right now?” Esperance says. “And that way, you’re spreading the art around through their community and vice versa. That really just was eye-opening for us, so we started to embrace it even more. It all just kind of seeps into the music that we make and the whole attitude. I’d say those two things have, as much as it drains our energy, at the same time, it’s also helping us stay relevant too.”
Ego Trip is an album that is raw and relatable — all of which is part of the band’s ongoing mission to help listeners overcome mental struggles and anxieties. But at the same time, it’s also fun and vibrant. It’s an album that should be listened to from front to back to hear the magic that each song has to offer.
“I know that when people will actually sit down and listen to the record as a whole, I know for a fact that they’re going to feel something. I know that we’re going to take them on an emotional rollercoaster, and they’re going to come out with a sense of hope and a feeling that they’re not alone and know how much shit’s going on in the world. It’s like, we got each other’s back — that we can get over it and we can overcome all this shit. That’s always been our message. It’s like the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s where we’re at,” Esperance says. “When we were younger and when we first started out, there was a lot of rage in us. We were ‘teenage’ at its finest. We were angsty, but we didn’t have the answers; we hadn’t really been through shit yet. And so, it’s like, now, we’ve been through a lot, and we want people to know that you can come out to the other side, and it’s all good. You just got to put the work in.”
Papa Roach just wrapped their headlining “Kill the Noise” tour with special guests Hollywood Undead and Bad Wolves and have several festival dates booked for this year. When asked about being able to tour again, Esperance says, “We love playing shows. The connection, the energy that we have with our fans — nothing compares to it. The fact that we’re back in action is just like, ‘Thank you.’”
Esperance continues to gleam with excitement about the album before he signs off, “Our baby’s finally being born after all this time. I feel like we’ve been pregnant for like two years.”
Ego Trip is available now via New Noize Records. Get the album — HERE.